Thursday, May 6, 2010

Day 4: Philadelphia - Garces Trading Co. & The Naked Chocolate Cafe


1113 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107-5890 
(215) 574-1099

Garces_Olive Oil

After my afternoon walk around Philadelphia doing my touristy things I decided to make my way over to Garces Trading Company for lunch.  My friend, her boyfriend, his friend, and I tried going there the night I arrived but it was packed and they said something along the lines of, "We're completely full for the rest of the night."  Really?  For the REST OF THE NIGHT??  It wasn't even that late... maybe 9PM or so.  It wasn't even like, "The wait will be over an hour," but it was straight up, "We're not taking any more people."  I had no idea restaurants even did that.

My friend had told me that Jose Garces, the winner of The Next Iron Chef: Season 2 winner, had already had a series of restaurants in Philly before he went on the show.  But after his win on the show, he had opened up 2 more, one of which being Garces Trading Company.  It hadn't been open long but it was already a packed house.  Very hip vibe.  With no places to sit/dine, we asked if we could look around.  


There was a Cheese, Pastry, and Charcuterie section.  I, of course, went directly to the pastry section.  Looked impressive enough.  

Garces_Pastry Menu

I decided to get some macarons to go.  It as $4 for 6 so I got half and half of the Raspberry Lime and the Salted Caramel.

(sorry for the blurry photo)

Verdict of these macarons: NOT GOOD.  Ok, maybe that's an exaggeration.  It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great.  It was hard and the filling wasn't anything special.  I noticed when they boxed mine they took it from another place that was sitting outside of the dessert case.  This was a bit strange since I remember reading somewhere that refrigerating macarons is the best thing to do so that the filling and the macaron would have time to absorb the flavor into each other.  I just didn't want to finish it after 2.  That's always a tall tell sign of knowing if something is really good or not.  If people leave ANYTHING behind it's usually because it wasn't that good.

I decided to eat at Garces despite my bad macaron encounter because Jackie had told me that the food was really good.  There weren't too many people in the restaurant which was great for me for two reasons: One) I was eating alone and I felt less self conscious of it with less people around, and Two) I knew I was going to be taking photos of my meal and I didn't want people to give me the stink eye or watch me.  Everything looked good but the Chef's Tasting Menu seemed like the best way to get the most of my meal.  

The first thing that came out was the bread.


I was a bit confused on what to do with the little ramekin of salt.  Was I supposed to pour it into the olive oil?  Or was I supposed to dip the bread in the oil then spoon in on the bread?  I ended up doing a little bit of both.  The bread wasn't anything orgasmic but the olive oil was really light and had great flavor.  Considering they bottle it and sell it I guess I wasn't all that surprised.
First appetizer:
Tomme Crayuese (Semi-Soft Cow) Cheese, Truffle Lavender Honey, and Toscano Salami

I love cheese.  This one was mild but paired with the honey was pure bliss.  The salami was delicious too.  The only thing that was a bit strange was after I had about half of the cheese it started to leave a bit of a chemical aftertaste.  Almost like I was eating cleaning chemicals.  Sounds very strange, I know, but it wasn't pleasant.  Maybe that cheese is better in small doses.  It was a lot of cheese for just one person..

Second appetizer:
Baby Artichokes (Preserved Lemon, Honey, Dates, Walnuts)

Artichokes were pretty delicious too.  The lemon started burning my tongue a bit after almost eating all of it.  Something about too much acid that my mouth doesn't particularly care for.

First Entree:
Garces_Cuban Sandwich
El Cubano Clásico (Roast Pork, Ham, Gruyère, Mustard, Pickle)

SoooOooOoOoo good.  Let me show you the inside:
Garces_Cuban Sandwich 2

I salivated a bit just thinking about it.  There's something about gruyere and mustard together that I find absolutely delicious.

Second Entree:
Funghi (Maitakes, Royal Trumpets, Taleggio, Black Truffles)

Truffles??? I couldn't believe it.  Never in my life have my taste buds ever been exposed to such a delicacy.  I picked them out with my finger and tasted it.  .... Maybe I need a huge slice of it because it didn't really taste like anything to me.  Must be my very unsophisticated pallet.  Oh well.  The pizza was really good, though.  Thin crust, lots of cheese, and a selection of mushrooms I didn't hate (there's one species of mushroom I hate).

All throughout the meal I tried to eat little as possible so that I wouldn't get full.  I think I left half the pizza and the sandwich to leave room for dessert.. all to find out the desserts weren't included in the tasting menu.  HUGE BUMMER.  How can the tasting menu NOT include dessert??  My mouth was all set for something sweet so with the waiter's suggestion I got the Spring Verrine:

Garces_Panna Cotta
Spring Verrine (Buttermilk Panna Cotta, Grapefruit Curd, Pistachio-Hazelnut Crunch)

Looks good right??? Well, it wasn't.  It was bordering on just plain gross.  "Panna Cotta" is what they called it but it was more like soup.  No joke.  The grapefruit curd had a nice thick skin on it.. telling of its age no doubt.  I didn't have the heart to tell the waiter it was nasty.  I bet the punk was being pressured to sell it by the management or chef.  After paying I walked up to the case to see what the name of the dessert was so I could warn people not to get it.  There was plenty of it in the case.  Should have known... probably one of the least popular.

The meal at Garces was delicious and went above my expectations.  My tasting menu was $25 and a great deal.  However, if two people had to share what I ate alone and had to pay $50 I wouldn't think it was such a great deal.  I'm glad I went alone and ate this.. otherwise I would have just felt bad for the other person eating with me.


1317 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 735-7310
Naked Chocolate

Naked Chocolate_Sign
I was pretty full from the food from lunch but I couldn't leave Philly without making a stop at the famous Naked Chocolate Cafe.  After staring at the menu for a bit I decided on the Dark Chocolate Sipping Chocolate.. partly with the recommendation of fellow Yelpers and partly with my friend's suggestion.  I wasn't in the mood to try another dessert so I thought I'd get something they were known for and small.

Naked Chocolate_Sipping Chocolate 2

Seriously, melted chocolate with a huge ass pile of whipped cream and a small pirouette cookie.  I took 2 small spoon fulls and I know I had enough.  Wasting food is a pet peeve of mine so I tried chugging the rest of it.  BAD IDEA.  Nausea set in and I was not feeling good.  There was still a good half of it left.  This was why I didn't want anything too chocolaty at Max Brenner.  The thought of chocolate made me sick.

Naked Chocolate_Chocolates

Naked Chocolate_Chocolate Painting

I bought my brother a box of chocolates because I couldn't over-night him some Philly cheesesteaks.  They had different sized boxes and I got the largest one.  It was around $25.

Naked Chocolate_Chocolate Box

Naked Chocolate_Chocolate Box 2

You know that famous line in Forrest Gump when Forrest is on the bench with his box of chocolates for Jenny and he asks the nurse sitting next to him if she wants some "choc-late"?  He says his famous quote, "My mama always said... life was like a box of choc-lates," his mouth smacking with chocolate, "You never know what you're gonna git."  I always thought that it was silly because in See's and Godvia chocolates, they usually have a little sheet of paper telling you exactly what's in it.  But with this box from Naked Chocolate, you really DON'T KNOW what you're gonna git!  I suspect it's because they box up whatever left over chocolates they have from the previous day or week.  Gotta get rid of them somehow right?

Naked Chocolate_Chocolate Box 3

So, I wish I could tell you what they were.  I actually started taking small bites of each one to taste it... then put it back in the box.  Sorry, I don't remember what was what.  One that stuck out was the dark chocolate heart shaped one with a smooth finish.  It had crunchy flakes in it with some ganache.  Mmmm that was good.

Naked Chocolate_Chocolate Box 4

As of right now, I think the Naked Chocolate is a bit overrated.  I didn't have anything that was spectacular.  Nothing was bad but it's not a place I'm dying to go back to.  Maybe I just got the wrong things.  Oh well.  Maybe next time I can try a dessert and get their Frozen Hot Chocolate wanna-be.